Cave could go down under

Tim Jones, owner of Steptoes, East Preston Street, is selling up after 13 years and moving to Australia.
Tim Jones, owner of Steptoes, East Preston Street, is selling up after 13 years and moving to Australia.
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FROM second-hand furniture to sheet music, unusual bric-a-brac to paintings, its jam-packed shelves have proved a firm favourite with bargain hunters for more than a decade.

But the future of the city’s distinctive Steptoes shop hangs in the balance as its owner announces plans to sell up and move to Australia.

Tim Jones, 52, said: “I’ll be sad to leave the shop – and Edinburgh generally – behind.

“But the time is right for me – I need to do this while I’m young enough.”

Steptoes has turned heads in East Preston Street, Newington, for 13 years since Mr Jones set up the Aladdin’s Cave-style business.

Students, homeowners and landlords have made the basement shop a roaring success, enjoying not only a peak at street level, but the mountains of treasures to be found down its quirky winding stair.

Mr Jones’ partner has secured a nursing job in Australia and he too is hoping to go, awaiting confirmation before putting the “for sale” sign up on his beloved business. He said: “People are fond of the shop because there aren’t many like it in Edinburgh.

“You can see people passing and staring in, wondering what could possibly be inside.

“I named it Steptoes in a semi-witty way, and the business is to turn over second-hand goods for profit, it’s more a market than an antique dealership.”

Over the years, Mr Jones’ shop has become a popular outlet for shoppers in Edinburgh seeking not only eye-catching second-hand furniture, but other unusual items he happens to come across.

“It’s certainly off-the-wall as shops go,” he added. “You get all kinds of customers in, and being at the heart of the student area has helped.

“People slag them [students] off but I’ve loved dealing with them – no-one consumes furniture quite like them, and I’ve had a great relationships with landlords and collectors too.

“You often get the same faces, people who have gone out for the day round charity shops and second-hand stores looking for bits and bobs.”

While he said he would like any new buyer to retain the feel of the shop, he said it would be suitable for a number of uses.

“Of course it would be nice to keep it going in its current format, I might even look into doing a similar thing in Sydney,” he said.

“It would be perfect for someone who has perhaps done a bit of car booting and is wanting a premises or to go full time, but I’d speak to anyone about if they wanted to buy the stock too, or simply just the shop to do what they want with it.”

Southside/Newington Conservative councillor Cameron Rose said: “It’s certainly a quaint contribution to the local retail offer and I’m sure he will be missed.”

Student Emma Logan, 22, who lives nearby, said she too would miss the shop.

She said: “It’s one of these places you don’t expect to find, a real hidden gem.

“I’ve bought countless bits and pieces from in there over the years.”

FINDERS KEEPERS

HE’s seen hundreds of items come and go in his Steptoes shop, but two deals remain prominent in Tim Jones’ mind.

“I remember buying an old desk from someone for £10, and one of the drawers was jammed,” he said.

“I eventually got it open and in it was a gold sovereign. That added £80 to the value of the deal.”

On another occasion he bought a box of paintings, admitting he did not really know what he was getting.

“I found an original 1850 Venetian watercolour which I then sold for £450.”